Joseph Saucier is believed to be the first French-Canadian artist to make a recording in Canada (circa 1904). He was born in Montréal in February, 1869. He first studied music with his father, a renowned pianist, organist and teacher, and performed publicly as a pianist at the age of ten. He also took lessons from the pre-eminent Montréal piano instructor, Dominique Ducharme. At the age of 18, prompted by friends who appreciated his voice, he decided to pursue a singing career rather than the piano. He began to study voice with Achille Fortier and Paul Wiallard. Before long, he was sought after to sing with various choirs, performing as a soloist at St. James's Cathedral and the church Le Gesù, as well as with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. By 1897, he was the organist and choirmaster at St-Louis du Mile-End Church in Montréal. In the same year, he left Montréal to study voice with Auguste-Jean Dubulle at the Conservatoire de Paris. While in Europe, he sang with success in concerts held in London and Paris.
He returned to Canada in 1902, to sing the role of Satan in Le Paradis perdu by Théodore Dubois, presented by Laval University as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations. He returned briefly to Paris, coming back to Montréal in the spring of 1903 and taking a position as choirmaster at Immaculée-Conception Church. He married Octavie Turcotte, who was a niece and student of Dominique Ducharme and a pianist who would accompany him in concerts and on many of his recordings. In 1907-08, and again in 1911-12, he served as president of the Académie de musique du Québec. He was one of the soloists for the premiere performance of Alexis Contant's oratorio Les Deux Âmes, in 1913. In 1923, he sang the part of the High Priest in Samson et Dalila, in Worcester, Massachusetts, one of his few forays into opera. From 1927 to 1936, he was choirmaster at St-Louis-de-France Church in Montréal, where he had performed as a soloist in 1914.
Joseph Saucier died in Montréal on April 20, 1941. An avenue in that city was subsequently named for him. Saucier's recordings include "Ô Canada", "Minuit chrétien" and Tchaikovsky's "Sérénade de Don Juan, Op. 38, No. 1". A discography can be found in Roll Back the Years and a typed list of recordings, compiled by Jean-Jacques Skira, is located in Library and Archives Canada's vertical file on Saucier.
For more information on Joseph Saucier's recordings, please consult the Virtual Gramophone database.
Hoffmann, Frank W. ; Carty, D. ; Riggs, Q. -- Billy Murray : the phonograph industry's first great recording artist. -- Lanham, Md : Scarecrow Press, 1997. -- x, 544 p. -- AMICUS No. 14865920
"Joseph Saucier" [vertical file]. -- National Library of Canada, Music Division
Moogk, Edward B. -- Roll back the years : history of Canadian recorded sound and its legacy : genesis to 1930. -- Ottawa : National Library of Canada, 1975. -- xii, 443 p. -- AMICUS No. 80154. -- Also published in French under the title: En remontant les années : l'histoire et l'héritage de l'enregistrement sonore au Canada, des débuts à 1930
Sandwell, B.K. -- The musical red book of Montreal : a record of music in Montreal from 1895 to 1907 . . . -- Montréal : F.A. Veitch, 1907. -- 229 p. -- AMICUS No. 25116559
"Saucier". -- Encyclopedia of music in Canada. -- Edited by Helmut Kallmann et al. -- 2nd ed. -- Toronto : University of Toronto Press, c1992. -- xxxii, 1524 p. -- AMICUS No. 12048560